“So, we’re f**ked.”

Harry’s eyes slid away. “Well…”

Jared straightened in his seat. “What?”

“There is someone who might be able to help your vampires. She wouldn’t be able to come up with some kind of counteragent, but it’s possible that she could help the tainted.”

“Who?” Jared and Antonio asked in unison.

“Her name is Paige West, and she’s a Keja vampire who is part of my line. Her gift…She can heal, but she’s not a healer.”

Frowning, I shook my head. “I’m not following.”

“Her gift is actually offensive. If you were to harm her, she could take her pain or her injury and give it to you, and it would be three times worse when revisited onto you. Her gift is more about inflicting pain and avenging herself than about healing.”

Well. Call me odd, but I found that gift kind of intriguing. It was pretty much a karma-like gift, and I was a big believer in tit for tat.

“And she can do that for others?” asked Jared.

“Yes, she can take their pain or injury, but she must have someone to give it to. Without that, the hurt will almost instantly return to the person it came from. I imagine it would work on tainted vampires. But I can’t be sure.”

“We’ll take our chances.” Jared shrugged. “At this point, we have nothing to lose anyway.”

And if there was even the slightest chance that she could help Evan, Max, and Stuart, then Paige West was now my new best friend. “Where do we find her?”

Harry gave us a grim smile. “That’s the tricky part. Nobody actually knows where Paige is.”

Well, crap.

“She doesn’t particularly enjoy this life and has cut herself off from all vampirekind?” asked Antonio. It wasn’t an uncommon thing.

“No. It was, in fact, her decision to Turn. Her Sire sent her on an assignment – I’m not sure exactly what it was – but instead of coming back with the information he wanted, she killed the vampire who had the information. After that, she disappeared, along with the information, and no one has been able to find her.”

Well great. Just great.

“Surely her Sire has a vague idea of her location,” insisted Jared.

“Possibly, but I’m not certain.”

Antonio tilted his head. “Who is her Sire?”

“His name is Robert Langley. I can give you his contact details.” After consulting his smartphone, he rattled off an address and a cell number. Jared entered it all into his cell phone while Antonio scribbled it down onto a piece of paper. “Warning, Robert’s not the most pleasant of people.”

“That’s okay.” Jared smiled, looking a little evil, to be honest. “Neither am I.”

Antonio briefly bowed his head at Harry. “You have been a huge help, Covington. I appreciate it.”

Jared nodded. “Yeah, thanks.”

“Don’t thank me yet. Even if you find Paige, it won’t be easy to convince her to help you because she clearly wishes to be left alone.”

Jared’s evil smile widened. “Don’t worry about us finding a way to make Paige cooperate. We can be very persuasive.”

Ending the call, Antonio swerved in his seat to fully face Jared and me. “I’ve never heard of Paige West. Perhaps that is because she has isolated herself from our kind. In any case, I will have Sebastian locate her. He is the best tracker there is.”

“He is,” agreed Jared. “And I appreciate having his help. But I won’t rely on him. Not with this. Finding her is too important. This woman might be our only chance of saving the guys. Sam and I should still go see Robert Langley, find out what he knows about her.”

Understanding that Jared needed to feel that he was actively helping, I clasped his hand and gave it a supportive squeeze. “Then we leave at dusk.”

“Yes, it is important for you both to rest first.” Antonio sighed. “I can only speculate on how exhausted you must both be – physically and emotionally – after this evening’s events.”

“I’d like to briefly speak with Evan before we head home.” Jared massaged the palm of my hand with his thumb. “He’ll be glad to hear Harry’s news.”

Antonio grimaced. “Would it be wise to give him false hope? For all we know, Paige West’s gift will not help with The Call.”

“It has to,” stated Jared. “There are only three people in this world I care about – Sam, Evan, and you. I absolutely refuse to lose any of you.”

My chest was literally aching with the echoes of his pain that were running through me. I leaned against him, wishing I could help and hating that I couldn’t. His arm closed around me, keeping me there. I wanted to assure him that he wouldn’t lose any of us, that we’d find some way to help Evan. But we’d never been up against anything like this before. Since meeting, Jared and I had had our fair share of trials and dealt with some really freaky scenarios, but nothing like this. How did you go about fighting something that you couldn’t see, that had no physical properties and no counteragent?

“I think it would also be best to delay the Coronation until after The Call is once again dormant.” Antonio’s expression begged us to understand. “For one thing, it is imperative that this matter is dealt with immediately. Also, most of vampirekind is now on lockdown, intent on staying out of The Call’s reach. We would therefore have no witnesses, no celebration. And I very much doubt a Prelate would risk travelling here to perform the ceremony. I haven’t yet announced my intention to step down, so there will be no one to disappoint.”

“I agree.” I frowned as something suddenly struck me. “One thing, though. Is it really possible to remain out of The Call’s reach by hiding? I mean, Quentin’s nest was underground and yet it struck them. Is it possible that it tainted someone before them? That the tainted vampire then took it to the nest with him?”

“Only Quentin can answer that question. None of the other High Masters know where he is. It’s possible that he did in fact die in the tunnels.”

I hoped not, or it meant that his answers had died with him. If there were more tainted vampires out there, it was important that we found and contained them.

There was a brief knock, and then Luther entered the room. “Please tell me you have good news.”

Sebastian followed Luther inside. “Yes, I need something to give me hope.”

Tags: Suzanne Wright Deep In Your Veins Vampires
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